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Pixie Ninja: Ultrasound

Norwegians Jostein Haugen and Marius Leiraanes have worked together since 2008, the duo deciding to fully come together as Pixie Ninja in 2015. A full year in the making, the band's debut was recorded between December 2015 and the same month the next year, although it would be 2017 before the resultant album, Ultrasound, would be released. Using a mixture of electronic and conventional instruments, what the pair conjure lands somewhere between ambient and progressive rock/metal, without ever really settling too comfortably into any of those categories. "Auditory Hallucinations" begins the journey, a smooth, understated build of chiming sounds and gentle hums a restrained introduction to this entirely instrumental affair. Wending its way through pensive sections where atmosphere completely overwhelms any notion of music, six minutes into the nine of this opening gambit an electronic beat and synth melody hint at the larger picture.

That a grating guitar riff, pulsing snare pop and flute are what greet you by way of "Elusive The Wind Vane" is therefore something of a shock, the forceful guitars tamed by the breathy melody that gives way to an uneasy synth/string surge. There's an air of early Porcupine Tree, the hypnotic value of what is playing out hard to overstate as the foot is cleverly taken off the gas, before being stamped right back down as, you presume, we gallop towards a crashing crescendo. Pixie Ninja aren't so keen on convention though, the twinkle of glockenspiel adding another aspect as the soundscape constantly changes and reshapes. In terms of feel, possibly the closest comparison might be Nordic Giants, the inescapable atmosphere of wordless stories being recounted undoubtedly the driving force behind much of what you hear.

Short interluding moments also make their presence felt, "Une Promenade" a brief, surprising (if anything here is truly a surprise given the ever moving landscape) piano piece, while the album's title track is a short, if verging on conventionally prog-rock, excursion; taught strings piercing a mid-era like Porcupine Tree hair-raiser that spends its final minute in retro-space age bloops and bleeps. Surrounding these punctuations come the suitably electro-weird of "Polysomnographic" and the more album defining "Improvement Cult", which almost settles into a latter day Marillion lilt before a distorted beat and foreboding rush of melodic electronic sounds come rushing towards you.

Even though there are some more conventional reference points scattered throughout this review, one of the biggest compliments I can pay Pixie Ninja is that they sound, overall, remarkably unlike anyone else. Yes, elements appear that do feel familiar, but in essence few others are making the type of visionless movie music that Ultrasound contains. The promise revealed as it does so is huge, although what's served up here is fully realised enough to leave a long lasting impression all of its own.


Track Listing
1. Auditory Hallucinations
2. Elusive the Wind Vane
3. Une Promenade
4. Polysomnographic
5. Personal Improvement Cult
6. Ultrasound

Added: January 7th 2018
Reviewer: Steven Reid
Score:
Related Link: Pixie Ninja at bandcamp
Hits: 135
Language: english

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